Saturday, May 1, 2021

May Issue Released! Cholla Needles 53 =:-)


edited by John Brantingham
cover & inner art by Ann Brantingham

The creative words within are by:

Aruni Wijesinghe
Tim Hatch
K. Andrew Turner
Kelsey Bryan-Zwick
Scott Noon Creley
Lloyd Aquino
Thomas Thomas
Daniel Cryns
Kitty Anarchy
T. Anders Carson
Kendall Johnson

Click here to purchase a copy on-line ($5)


Keep up with our featured readers at our weekly Zoom Party every week.




Review of Stoner by John Edward Williams

Stoner
by John Edward Williams

(New York Review Books Classics, 1965)

Reviewed by Greg Gilbert

“A beautiful, sad, utterly convincing account of an entire life…I’m amazed a novel this good escaped general attention for so long.” —Ian McEwan

Stoner is an unhurried, melancholy, and unadorned masterpiece, a treatise on the life of an Everyman, existential and, as reviewers have said, it offers us a figure from an Edward Hopper or Grant Wood painting, a still life, isolated, bent in his isolation, even among his students, family, and associates. Set in Missouri in the first half of the Twentieth Century, William Stoner is raised by quiet, hardscrabble farm people. He attends the state university to study agronomy with the intention of returning to the farm, but a literature class detours him toward scholarly pursuits. Beset by a loveless marriage, university politics, and an ill-fated romantic liaison, he lives a life shaped by small currents and long silences, all framed against a world of wars and the never-ending columns of new students, class prep, grading, and his enduring passion for literature. As readers, we accompany him from his youth until his death, and what may begin for some as a ponderous and uneventful reading experience will, as it has for many, transform into an accumulation of small tragedies and graces worthy of the most spiritual and accomplished of artistic works.

John Williams is increasingly recognized as an author of consequence. Stoner has been referred to by author Charles J. Shields as “the perfect novel,” and to my thinking, rightfully so. The author died in 1994 at age 71. He shared the National Book Award in 1973 for Augustus, set in the early days of the Roman Empire, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1974.

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Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

More info



Tuesday, April 20, 2021

April Virtual "Open Readings" for Poetry Month 2021

Welcome to our April 2021 Shelter-In-Place Video "Open Readings". A huge thanks is due to all the folks who have participated either as audience or as featured readers in our Cholla Needles Zoom Shelter-In-Place readings. I am pleased that we are able to continue these video experiences to share with each other until we can meet again in person. I can honestly say hearing your voices is keeping me sane. 

If you are browsing our pages, we consider YOU a part of our family and you are welcome to become part of our Shelter-In-Place video pages. Simply contact us at editor@chollaneedles.com & ask how to get your videos posted on our pages. You can also use this address to send us your poetry, short stories, essays, and art for publication in our monthly magazine. 

I am both amazed and thankful to discover that of the thirty-one poets represented below for Poetry Month 2021, nineteen of them have books available from Cholla Needles, and a few have more than one book available. 

Good Times!!! Click here for information on watching our Sunday Zoom Show live at 3 - 3:30 PM each week. In the meantime, enjoy the videos:


Welcome To The Cholla Needles Zoom Party


Heather Morgan reads The Iron Man And His Puddle


Miriam Sagan reads Two Poems and Three Haiku


Steve Braff reads from Exodus Remix


Pamela Peery reads Old Roads And Empty Corrals


Peter Jastermsky reads five one line Haiku


Jean Paul L. Garnier reads Two Poems


Allyson Jeffredo reads from Even Gods

Three Poems from Speech Scroll


Mike Vail reads Two Poems


Gracie Wilson reads Bukowski


Kent Wilson reads Four Poems


Caryn Davidson reads Storyteller


John Sierpinski reads Three Poems


Cindy Rinne reads Poems


George Howell reads Two Poems


Cynthia Anderson reads Two Poems


Francene Kaplan reads Two Poems


Dave Benson reads Ten Short Poems


Ruth Nolan reads Poems


Mark Evans reads My Skin Is Not A Tattoo



Kurt Schauppner reads Two Poems


Greg Wyss reads Two Poems


Susan Abbott reads Two Villanelle and Mirage


John Brantingham reads Two Poems


Kelsey Bryan-Zwick reads Three Poems


Kendall Johnson reads Two Poems


Lauren Henley reads Wonder


Jonathan Maule reads Language


Noreen Lawlor reads Two Poems


Steve Perry reads Three Poems


Romaine Washington reads Two Poems


Good Times!!! Thanks for watching!!!

Click here to check out all our "Shelter-In-Place" videos


Click here to check out all our "Big Read 2020" videos

Book Review: Beethoven Variations by Ruth Padel

Beethoven Variations by Ruth Padel
(144 pages -103 poetry and the remainder comprised of end notes and references; Knopf, 2021)

Reviewed by Greg Gilbert for Cholla Needles


Ruth Padel’s poetic biography is arranged in four movements that provide insights into Beethoven’s life. From his time as a beaten and weeping child acquiescing to his drunkard father’s demands that he practice at the clavier and his days as a young artist who is upbraided for the sin of improvisation to his time as a budding prodigy who is sent to study with Mozart only to have to return home to his dying mother, this is the poetically told story of an artist who is losing his hearing in a world where medical practitioners are nothing more than leech equipped barbers. We see Beethoven become an artistic triumph and a dejected romantic in war-ravaged Europe. And, finally, we accompany his retreat into an isolating silence.


Now 250 years after his birth, Beethoven’s originality is celebrated by Padel’s intimate, personal, and often surprising compositions. At times she comes to the fore, speaks in the first person and reflects on her interpretation of the great composer’s life, injecting a sense of loving wonder into the tone of her composition: “I see a small boy dashing through these alleys / to play for early mass.” The result is a sense of serious connection to this exploration of the maestro’s life. Throughout the work, she references his music, her poetry at times light and at other times relying on the dark keys, and as with any great composition, there is a circular unity to her work. It begins with a description of the “ear bone,” and concludes with notes from his autopsy, “and the auditory nerve / withered / to a pure white strand.” Between the opening and closing lines there is a level of conjecture that never asserts but, rather, spans the previous two-and-a-half centuries with feelings of compassion.


Beethoven is not merely a historical figure, his life remains relevant, not only through conjecture but through the ongoing life of his work. His music accompanied my reading of Padel’s poems. “A sonata in C-sharp minor, / quasi fantasia, like a blind girl / lit by moonlight she cannot see.  / New melodies unfold from tiny seeds. / Euphoria, then presto agitato, manic rage.”  Many of the poems are set up by notes from Beethoven’s journals, correspondences, and scholarly insights. “A Flute of Lilac Wood” is introduced by a passage from Ferdinand Ries, “Beethoven Remembered”: “For half an hour he could not hear anything at all and became extremely quiet and gloomy, though I repeatedly assured him that I did not hear anything any longer either (which was, however, not the case).” Padel’s poetry elaborates, “But leaves don’t rustle, birds forget to sing, / Your friend hears a shepherd in the forest play / a flute of lilac wood.”  In introducing her poem “Human Fire,” Padel quotes from a letter that Beethoven wrote to Bettina von Arnim in 1812, “Music should strike fire in the heart of man.” Her poem offers direct address, “ . . . You are Prometheus / the benefactor, stealing flame.”  And later in her poem, “Until It Please the Fates to Break the Thread,” she employs third and first person, “He cannot hear the driving rain. / But he’s sketching a funeral march, / a symphony. I have taken a new path.”


While Ruth Padel’s body of poetry includes such works as Darwin and The Art of Kintsugi as well as prose works of fiction and nonfiction and essays, I will remain most grateful for Beethoven Variation. This time of immersion in Beethoven’s music accompanied by her poetic insights has provided a rich experience, one that I recommend with enthusiasm.  

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Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.

More info

Monday, April 19, 2021

Book Review: Hard Candy by Charles A. Carroll

Hard Candy by Charles A. Carroll
(586 pages, Bear Witness Press)

Reviewed by Greg Gilbert 

 

Charles A. Carroll’s Hard Candy is not a book to read at bedtime. Rather, it is an eye-opening, story of boys abandoned to state institutions and the physical and sexual abuses that they endure. The author, Charles Carroll, and his brother, Bobby, are erroneously consigned as youngsters to a system for low level functioning children of every description, a world where bullies and sexual predators, pedophiles, and institutional opportunists turn blind eyes to all that the children endure. The story is told through the eyes of Chucky (Charles Carroll) and takes us from his and his brother’s initial abandonment by their parents and up to the present where Mr. Carroll, now approaching 80, continues his life’s work of fighting for the safekeeping of children everywhere. Hard Candy is a promise kept for children in custodial systems, especially for Chucky and Bobby, and it provides a cautionary tale in a world where atrocities will always seek prurient opportunities in the shadows. The language, overt racism, graphic physical descriptions, and coarse behaviors that exist in Carroll’s book feel true and unfiltered, a representation of a system that has absolutely no place for kindness.


Hard Candy is a hero’s journey, but the challenges are not metaphorical or mythic; they are the horrors faced every day, day-after-day, year-after-year, by a real boy. And, it is fair to say that this is a love story of brothers and for those innumerable children whose innocence is subverted into obsequious nightmares by adults and bullies who groom trust, breed betrayal, and sew disillusionment in those entrusted to their care. Mr. Carroll is a survivor, and beyond any sense of catharsis, Hard Candy reflects and shares memories and insights into the complex, long-termed effects of abuse and confinement.


Finally, Hard Candy concludes with more than 200 pages of additional materials, afterwards, tributes, recognitions, resources, references, and internet linkages to every state’s child abuse hotline, plus bibliographic entries that cover all aspects of abuse and its effects. In simple and direct terms, Hard Candy is a grueling story of survival that celebrates the resiliency of the human spirit, and it is a book that provides the resources and insights that young Carroll never had. This is a reference book for anyone who will join Chucky and Bobby in saying, “Never again!”

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Greg Gilbert is the author of Afflatus.


More info

Book Review: A Swim In A Pond In the Rain by George Saunders

 review by Michael G. Vail


 An acclaimed short story author and novelist, George Saunders also conducts a course in the 19th century Russian short story at Syracuse University. In his new book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, Saunders shares what he teaches his students about seven stories by Chekhov, Gogol, Turgenev and Tolstoy.

 His pupils are aspiring authors, “some of the best young writers in America,” according to Saunders. I mention this because his book is very much about the nuts and bolts of what makes a story work. He compares the “mystery” of how a story gets written to a guy constructing a model railroad town in his basement. “The aim of this book is mainly diagnostic,” he explains.

 The casual reader may find much of this to be heavy sledding. For writers, though—and would-be writers—there’s much that is valuable.

 Saunders notes, for instance, that “all a story is, really” is “a continual system of escalation. A swath of prose earns its place in the story to the extent that it contributes to our sense that the story is escalating.”

 He uses the term “meaningful action” instead of “plot” in describing why the appearance of a story’s main character makes it “restless”. And notes: “Energy, hopefully, gets made in the early pages and the trick, in the later pages, is to use that energy.”

 According to Saunders, every part of a story must be entertaining in its own right AND must advance the story in a non-trivial way. “Don’t make things happen for no reason,” he states. “Having made things happen, make it matter.”

 It’s surprising that a book like A Swim in a Pond in the Rain has been released by a major publisher, considering that its potential readership will never be large. Those of us who will treasure it can only be thankful.

Previous books by George Saunders include Lincoln On The Bardo and Tenth of December.

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Michael G. Vail is the author of the novel The Salvation of San Juan Cajon, and the short story/poetry collection High Desert Elegy.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

New Book! Fragile Beauty by ayaz & judith nielsen


like a poem written
in a book of sand
the fragile beauty
of our lives

Judith Partin-Nielsen: Following a trail of words, mountains, spirit and tears, this writer, mother, wife and eventually psychoanalyst left Texas for Colorado in 1985. The land of the Arapahoe welcomed me and called me by name. The love of poetry, poet and high mountain valleys has warmed my heart and made my home. Freud said “everywhere I go, the poet has been there before me.” May we keep following those footsteps on our paths thru the worlds. Judith has taught contemplative psychotherapy at Naropa University, practices psychoanalysis and writes poetry.

ayaz daryl nielsen, b. 1948, Valentine, Nebraska, attended schools in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Monterrey, Mexico, and has lived in Bonn, Germany. A veteran and hospice nurse, he’s edited the print publication bear creek haiku for over 35 years and 165 issues and is online at bear creek haiku poetry, poems and info. His publications include the chap-book a soft voice, Cholla Needles, co-authored with his beloved wife, poet and psychoanalyst Judith Partin-Nielsen. Among other deeply appreciated honors, he is especially delighted by the depth and heart of poets worldwide whose poems have found a home in bear creek haiku’s print and online presence. He and Judith live in Longmont, Colorado, USA.